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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup & Notes

Let's get to what I am assuming is on everyone's mind this morning: health of DC and Luc. From Pucin in the LA Times:

Collison and Mbah a Moute participated in Friday's light practice and are listed as probable starters.
And from Dohn's report in the Daily News:
UCLA point guard Darren Collison (hip) and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (knee) both practiced Friday and are expected to play today.
Those are somewhat encouraging reports. Obviously neither DC nor Luc will be 100 percent this morning. But I imagine they are going to give everything they have knowing the importance of this game and also be aware of the fact that they will have few days to rest up after today.

As for the game KS Wong from Bruin Basketball Report has the preview calling it a titanic match up. Wong's notes on Banes and Rochestie were interesting:
The Cougars are a more balanced scoring team this year with the addition of a couple of players to the starting line-up, specifically Baynes and Rochestie.

Center Aron Baynes (6'10, 270, Jr), injured most of last season, is the most improved player on the team. He's providing the low post physical presence the team has been lacking. The native Australian has been impressive and efficient, he is averaging 12.1 points on 61.9% shooting and grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game.

A behemoth under the basket, Baynes will be matched up against UCLA's own 270lb center Kevin Love.

After getting the best of the center match-ups last week in the Bay area, Love had a quiet game against the Huskies on Thursday, getting six shot attempts and just two trips to the foul line. Love needs to do a better job making himself available for a pass by moving and rotating to the high post or corner from the low post. With the tough defense the Cougars administer, the Bruins need Love to be active to help release some of the pressure on the ball.

Junior point-guard Taylor Rochestie (6'1, 186) is leading the Cougars in assists with 4.9 a game. Although Rochestie's biggest assist of the year came over the summer when he chose to give up his well-earned scholarship so the team could sign highly touted recruit, Marcus Capers.

Rochestie is the team's top three-point field goal shooter at a stunning 48.6%. He gives the Cougars another smart and solid ball handler on the floor as well as a deep threat.
Those two are integral part of a WSU team that truly plays like a team. They are all unselfish players who don't care about individual stats. Coach Howland made the same points in Dohn's report today:
"I think Baynes is an added factor now. He's very good and he's playing a lot more minutes," Howland said. "He's shooting 61 percent from the floor and gives them a really good inside presence. They have great scoring balance, and they have an inside-outside game now.

"They are very patient and they don't care who scores. They truly are a team, and there is no one worried about themselves, which is really impressive. They really are great screeners, they set very good physical screens. They also do a great job of reading them (screens)."
How the Bruins matchup against the Cougs will depend largely on the healthy of DC and Luc. If those guys can't go all the way it will be up to Westbrook, AA2, Mata-Real, and Keefe to step up in a big way.

More game notes from Jay Bilas in the WWL who for the second straight week has a UCLA game as the marquee game of the weekend:
X & O To Watch: Both teams do a nice job of doubling in the post. UCLA is effective at taking the opposite big man and double-teaming the post, forcing the ball to be thrown opposite and disrupting a big guy. Aron Baynes can expect to see a lot of doubles, and he has to make quick moves and be decisive in whether to take it or pitch it to an open teammate.

Keys: UCLA does a great job of guarding the 3-point line and defending the post. The Bruins bump cuts, stand you up and take you out of your offensive schemes. Washington State is the best percentage 3-point shooting team in the Pac-10 and the Bruins will have to be with Wazzu's Derrick Low wherever he goes and make him dribble into a shot. The Bruins are a far better rebounding team and the Cougars will have to battle on the glass with all five guys going to the defensive board and checking out on every possession. A second shot could be the difference in this one.

Star Watch: If you want to watch one player, keep an eye out for Kyle Weaver of Washington State. While this game will be chock-full of good defenders (like UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute), Weaver may be the best individual defender in the country. He is a good athlete with great length and he has uncanny defensive range. He can guard a point guard or a big man in the post and he is disruptive. Most importantly, he takes pride in taking a good player totally out of the game. Weaver gets almost two steals per game and he does it in games with far fewer possessions than most.
In other words watch out Shipp. Weaver is coming after you. Hopefully Josh will relish the challenge. We are going to need a focused effort from him today from start to finish.

For more on the game check out Bill Dwyre's column in the LA Times. It's a pretty good read in which Bennett comes across as one of classiest coaches in the league:
Tony Bennett says he loves to talk basketball with Howland, and that his dad and Howland are partly responsible for toughening up the Pac-10.

"I think the conference does better now in the NCAA tournament because of them," Bennett said.
Well Bennett also has had a prominent role in making the Pac-10 the deepest if not the toughest conference in America.

Lastly, You don't think Coach Howland is fired up for today? Check out what he was doing yesterday when our students were camping out near Pauley:

Yeah that is Coach Howland dropping by to give away t-shirts to all the students who were camping out last night. Many thanks to lil eg not cs for emailing us that shot via his iphone from Pauley last night. Man, I miss those days. Still remember Eddie O and Tyus bringing us bagels.

Game thread will up before the tip-off.